Armenian On Internet: Unite or Die
Type into Google this text to search “wzter”. Google politely says “Showing results for water”. Google was smart enough to know (and learns constantly) that I had mistyped the word and it even found the appropriate substitute. What if I wanted to find everything about water in Armenian. Should I search for “jur” or “chur” or “choor” or “joor” or how about “ջուր”? What if I am an Armenian in Russia? Should I search for “djur” or “джур”? And this was an easy word…
I plan to undertake a few projects as time permits if they don’t get addressed by others sooner. I feel I need to make my contribution in our great struggle to survive and preserve our race, culture, heritage, religion and all the good that defines us as Armenians. Take a look at this map and in 90 seconds you’ll see how so many conquerors have threatened the existence and identity of our people over and over for a few thousand years. Today we have similar visible enemies but we also have a few invisible enemies one of which is assimilation.
The Armenian Genocide and other calamities have divided our people and created a diaspora that’s larger than the population living in today’s Republic of Armenia which is what is left of our historical homeland. We are spread across the entire globe and many of us have formed families with non-Armenians which one would say was inevitable. Most Armenians work hard to integrate into their host societies and contribute to community in healthy and meaningful ways. That tight integration has helped us feel “at home” outside of Armenia. But it has also resulted in the White Genocide of our people. The less we carry forward our values, heritage, religion, history, culture, and everything else that makes us Armenians, the more we take part in the assimilation and eventual extinction of our people.
Today’s world is a global world and the national / country boundaries and borders need not serve as excuses not to preserve and promote our Armenian race and its heritage. In this struggle, we are so far are not winning the battle on the Internet. We have many issues that require Armenians to unite and work together to address as soon as possible.
- There’s lack of standard Armenian keyboards across all computer systems. Windows, Linux, Mac OS and others all have their variants but it takes effort to enable the Armenian type on these systems. I plan to create a web site with the purpose of making it easier for people to type in Armenian. I have a dream to see every Armenian type in Armenian on the Internet. If time permits, I’d also like to lobby to have Microsoft, Apple, Google and the open source community adopt a single consistent set of Armenian keyboard layouts and definitions. I’ll try to describe this project in more detail in a separate post.
- The mobile operating systems also do not have native support for Armenian – Apple, Google, and Microsoft do not see Armenian as an important first tier language. We need to work hard to change this. All Armenian organizations in the United States (and the rest of the world) have the moral duty to unite in the pursuit of this cause.
- Armenians who do not type in Armenian but use English, Russian or other characters but still use Armenian words have created an impossible (or extremely difficult) challenge to index their content and return it in search results. For example, search for “choor” will not result in content that refers to “ջուր”. Even if the content is there, it’s out of our reach. I have not yet figured out how to address this issue (especially given that Google and others don’t particularly prioritize Armenian).
- Our literature is not on the Internet in large quantities. Google has scanned about 20 million books so far, how many of those are in Armenian? I saw an estimate that about 10-20 million books exist in the Armenian language in the various libraries around the world but those are out of the reach of our people spread across the world. I have started to research to see what has been done so far and how I can help address this issue. We need to digitize our content in Armenian in large volume for the next generation not to have this issue. Please read this article along similar lines. I have reached out to the author already to seek her help with this initiative and plan to reach out to many others in the process.
- Many Armenians do not speak or understand Armenian. We need to make it possible for them to reconnect with their heritage so much of which is in our literature. I have started thinking of the ways in which we can digitize the entire Armenian library but not stop there and fully translate that library into every language of the world. This is not only feasible but it’s absolutely required for our people to survive and carry forward our heritage beyond cuisine and other superficial qualities. I have just registered a domain for this purpose as I didn’t find a united effort along these lines.
- For all new content creation, we need a dictionary, spell checker, thesaurus and other similar tools in all systems and programs to ensure that new works do not have the language inconsistencies we have in existing writing on the Internet. Some bits and pieces of work have been carried out on this front but nothing is universally accepted so far. I plan to derive these from the library project mentioned above.
- We have language issues that must be resolved. I call on all Armenians to adopt a single global language and orthography. That could be the language and orthography of today’s Armenia (easiest path forward) or we can create a global organization which includes the country and also all of the diaspora. We need to stop all battles of Eastern vs. Western, modern vs. classical orthography, etc. and need to instead delegate these to the language authority (country or global) and simply follow the standards. These are meaningless battles and only divide our already small race that’s getting smaller with each new generation. It is meaningless to think that we can sustain more than one language. I ask all Armenians to seriously consider this issue, set aside differences and agree upon a universal standard and even an organization to maintain and enrich our language for generation to come.
- We need to religiously read and write in Armenian (I say this in English for greater reach – I realize). Read an online newspaper, write comments in Armenian, create Wikipedia articles, etc. Every Armenian needs to realize that a percentage of their online activity must be carried out in Armenian. I spend less than 5% of my online “life” in Armenian and am guilty of failing on this point myself.
The list is much longer. I will list others and elaborate on these in future posts. Going back to my Google comment at the beginning of this post, I want to conclude with expression of my deepest hope and faith that we as a people can overcome these challenges and many more and not only survive in the digital age but also thrive and create our best contributions yet to our race and to humanity. I have a dream to search our entire written literature, to read it in many languages and to see it grow. If you share this dream, please let me know.